Walking to piano lessons meant a lot more than music for Kid Two and I. Every Tuesday we’d swallow supper quickly and grab her music case and walk the block to her piano teacher’s house.
But, ah! We’d pause on the way there, and again on the way back… we’d pause in front of 414 Codrington St to enjoy its gift to the world.
This is definitely THEE week to enjoy this rock garden… with brilliant yellow daffodils bending their heads towards us, tulips–lots of tulips–grape hyacinths, lobelia, all manner of flowers and ground cover and rocks, running about 70 feet and just at the perfect height for the nose of a seven year old girl!
We loved this garden. While it was beautiful all summer, it was absolutely glorious during the second week of May. Absolutely glorious. Each year, the garden’s chief tender expanded a little up the driveway of this neat home, meticulously developed and attached to its street front connector.
I often commented to Kid Two that this was a generous gift that this home owner gave to the whole community, generous because you see, this garden sloped from the front yard down towards the street. There would be very little of the garden visible from the home owners’ front window.
Kid Two has replaced piano with guitar and the lessons are long over and the piano teacher has moved and so have we. So, I don’t often get to pause at the garden at 414. But today, in memory of the gardener, I drove past, and stopped and just enjoyed the scent, and colour and the textures of this still remarkable garden.
The gardener passed away last November, heading for her next address, no doubt with trowel in hand and a perennial or two clutched between thumb and index finger.
And here is her story. While the neighbours knew her as Corrie Haughton, she was Cornelia Elbrecht, of Arnhem, Holland until her heart was whisked away by a Canadian soldier passing through her home town during World War Two. When his army days ceased with VE Day, Tom Haughton stayed on as a provost, intent on winning the heart of the young woman he’d met while driving a military motorcycle in June, 1945. They were married six months later, December 14. (This, incidentally, coincides with the birthday of Kid Two).
Corrie Haughton left her twin sister and her parents behind, and boarded the Queen Mary for Canada in September, 1946. Tom had come back to Barrie where his father was a minister, and moved his new bride into his parents home at 414 Codrington St.
Imagine life for this war bride, much more comfortable with her Dutch language than with this complicated English that was spoken in Barrie. Thomas and Corrie had their first child while living at 414 and it must have been a difficult time for Corrie, living with her parents-in-law and so far, far, far away from her own family.
Thomas and his brother tried self employment for awhile, but it was unsuccessful and he rejoined the forces and he and Corrie lived through several years of postings, from 1953 to 1965. During that time Corrie lived back in Holland, then in Zoest, Germany before spending time with her army husband at bases in Burnaby, Jericho Beach and Chilliwack before moving in 1964 back to a rental house in Shanty Bay. A year later, Corrie and Thomas took up permanent residence at 414 Codrington, with their brood of seven children and their strong sense of family commitment.
Thomas’ parents were both deceased, and Corrie began to garden. Tulips first, of course. She loved perennials, always loved perennials and the patch of grass that was impossible to cut at the front of the house methodically gave way a little each year to clusters of perennials and
While Corrie didn’t have a great view of her garden from her front window, she did have a great view of the people who stopped to enjoy her work of art. She loved to be outside meeting people; she loved the attention people gave in admiration of her garden.
Last summer, Corrie was diagnosed with liver and stomach cancer and she began palliative chemotherapy treatments, a form of chemo given to those whose prognosis is short in an attempt to extend weeks into months.
Corrie had four months left at her earthly address, as it turned out. She came down with pneumonia towards the end and at nearly 81, she passed on last November. She is buried in the family plot in Churchill, no doubt surrounded by flowers on a steep plot of land.
Her children, now ready for grandparenthood themselves, wondered how their father would manage with this ambitious garden left behind by his wife. Fred, Corry, Jack, Peter, and Gary all live in Barrie and all are able to pull a weed or two. Bob in Burlington and Tom in Winnipeg round out the children born to this young couple whose love went beyond the borders of war. And Thomas, the young Canadian army guy who captured Corrie’s heart and brought her to Canada, Thomas soldiers on, at 414. He enjoys the company of neighbours. And he commits himself this year, at least, to Corrie’s memory as the grape hyacinths and the daffodils poke their heads through the soil.
And the tulips! We can’t forget the tulips!